We established 22 projects that shared approximately £55,000 to test automatic library membership for children and young people. We wanted these projects to lead to an increase in children, young people and families using their local libraries and stimulate more reading for pleasure.
These projects were supported by the Department for Education and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
The projects included libraries working with birth registration services to offer library cards at birth, with nurseries and school library services to promote library memberships to local children and families, and with leisure services to offer combined library and leisure cards for children and young people.
The automatic library membership projects were a contribution towards achieving the Arts Council's goals of ensuring that every child and young person has the opportunity to engage with their library service, and of ensuring that libraries are sustainable and resilient.
The projects were located in: Barking and Dagenham; Barnet; Brent; Brighton & Hove; Bristol; Havering; Lewisham; Medway; Norfolk Library and Information Service and School Library Service; Northamptonshire; Plymouth; Portsmouth; Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead; Sandwell; South Gloucestershire; Staffordshire; Surrey; Thurrock; Waltham Forest; Wiltshire; Worcestershire; York.
This programme told us that providing every child with a library card at an early age is an important step for the child and/or parent to encourage reading. Following that up with multiple and sustained engagement is even more important, using schemes such as Rhymetime and Bookstart, which are already in place. Libraries can learn from the experience of these projects, including whether they are as pro-active as they could be about encouraging sign up, and that they have minimised, as far as possible, the barriers to joining the library.
Arts Council England is working with the library sector to help create libraries which are at the heart of local communities, helping to inspire and empower people to lead active lives enriched by culture. More details of the Arts Council's work with libraries, including the Libraries development initiative and a programme of research and debate entitled Envisioning the library of the future, can be found in our Supporting libraries pages.